18 Ways To Stop Being Clingy And Needy In A Relationship

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Neediness is never an attractive quality, but when you’re in love, it can, for some of us, be difficult to avoid.

Clingy behavior can damage your relationship if your partner can’t handle it. It can also mean you lose your independence. You forget about your ability to stand on your own two feet and get out there and get things done.

What’s more, it can mean that your focus is entirely on the object of your affections and all the other relationships in your life start to suffer.

We can all agree that one or both partners being clingy and needy isn’t a positive thing for any relationship.

But changing that behavior, once it’s been learnt, is easier said than done.

Sometimes you might behave in ways that you know perfectly well are unhealthy for your relationship and for you. You know you shouldn’t be behaving that way even whilst doing so, but you just can’t seem to help yourself.

Luckily, however, there are plenty of tricks you can play on your brain to stop it from perpetuating negative behavior.

It’s all about developing new habits and default reactions. You have to keep yourself occupied and entertained enough to stop your thoughts from dwelling on your partner more than is healthy and natural.

If you’ve been told you’re excessively clingy or just know it deep down in your heart, here are a few tips for lowering your neediness levels to manageable, or even non-existent.

18 Ways To Stop Being Clingy

1. Admit it to yourself

If you’re still in denial about your clinginess, and reading this through a veil of skepticism, you’re never going to improve the situation, and your relationship will suffer.

The first step is to accept that you’re clingy and that it’s a problem. Once you’ve processed that information, you’ll be in a position to take steps to change your behavior.

2. Put yourself first

When all we can think about is the object of our affections, we often, unconsciously, put their needs ahead of ours.

We stop doing things that we genuinely want to do because we’re so desperate to spend time with our lover.

We don’t have the guts to tell the other person what we need from them, perhaps out of fear that they’ll say no.

Whilst the universe doesn’t revolve around you, your universe shouldn’t revolve entirely around the other person.

Make sure that you’re not sacrificing your own needs for theirs, as in the long run that will only cause resentment on your side, and overwhelm on theirs.

3. Respect their boundaries

Some people love constant contact in the form of hugs, kisses, and caresses, but some people just don’t.

If your partner has told you, or their body language has made it clear that they’re not comfortable with the amount of physical affection you bestow on them, it’s important to be more aware of your behavior and respect their boundaries.

Remember, just because they aren’t as tactile as you, doesn’t mean they love you any less – they just have a different way of showing it. 

4. Keep busy

If you’re prone to being clingy, then having a lot of time on your hands is only going to make the problem worse, especially if your partner is a lot busier than you are.

If you’re currently plan-free most nights a week and they’ve got a packed social calendar, it’s time to get busy.

Make sure you’ve got plans at least three evenings a week so you physically don’t have the time to sit around missing them or texting them constantly.

5. Call your friends

Have you ever had a friend ditch you for a relationship? Do you remember how bad that feels? Don’t be that person.

Consciously nurture the important friendships in your life and set aside time to dedicate to them, just as you do with your partner. Encourage your partner to do the same.

6. Spend time with your family

People often ditch their family as well as their friends when they meet someone new.

When was the last time you called your mom? Give her a call, and, if you want to, tell her about your relationship. You could even ask her for a few tips on how to be less needy. Moms know best.

Then, talk about other things. As much as it might seem like it sometimes, your relationship isn’t the most important thing going on in this world, and you need to remind yourself of that.

7. Work on your trust issues

For some people, clinginess is based on a lack of trust. Have a think about where those trust issues have come from, and what you can do to fix them… or at least improve on them.

Whilst a partner who you can rely on is a wonderful help for overcoming these issues, you’re the one that has to do the work, not them.

8. Seek advice and guidance from a professional.

Behavioral change is possible for everyone, but that change often happens a lot more easily and quickly when there is a professional involved. In your case, you need to manage your clingy behavior whilst also working to uncover and deal with the underlying causes of it.

For this, we recommend the counseling services from Relationship Hero. You can connect and talk to an expert who deals with situations like yours all the time. They will be able to guide you, provide specific advice and approaches to try, and help you keep going when it feels like a struggle. You can speak to someone online from the comfort of your own home.

If this sounds like something you’d be interesting in trying, click here to speak to someone or arrange a session.

9. Don’t think about the ‘what ifs’

Have you ever found yourself going down a ‘what if’ black hole whilst you’re sitting at home and your partner is out for a drink with friends?

You start wondering, “what if he meets another girl?” or, “what if she decides she doesn’t want me anymore…?”

To be quite frank, anything could happen, and you can’t control the future, but there’s absolutely no point being miserable about hypothetical things that are very unlikely to happen.

You can worry about them if and when they do, but in the meantime, focus on and enjoy the good things in your relationship.

10. Start a new hobby

Join a netball team. Sign up for Zumba classes. Start a pottery class. Sign up for Spanish lessons. You may find creative things particularly useful when you’re getting clingy in a relationship.

It’s easier to not think about checking your phone when you are sat in a pottery class and it is safely stored away. You’ll be so engrossed in what you are doing with your hands (not to mention the mess it’d make if you did try to check it).

11. Go on holiday

Holidays with your partner can be dreamy, but holidays with friends or, for that matter, holidays on your own are also fantastic.

They’re very different experiences, but you might find that you actually see more of a place when you’re not wrapped up in your partner.

Going away for a long weekend or even a few weeks is a fantastic way to get a bit of space from one another and get excited about seeing each other again.

Absence, as long as it’s not excessive, really does make the heart grow fonder.

12. Meditate

If you know you’re being needy, but just can’t stop yourself, you need a mental workout to help you get your thoughts and behavior under control.

Think of meditation like the gym for your mind. If you want to make changes to the way you think, you’re going have to practice taking control.

There are many apps you can try or just find a guided meditation on YouTube. This will help clear your mind and put things in perspective, and give yourself the strength not to give in to clingy behavior.

13. Make plans and stick to them

Whatever you do, don’t drop any plans you’ve made with friends or family if your partner suggests doing something.

Tempting as it can be, dropping everything for your partner sends them the wrong message, and won’t impress the person you’re leaving high and dry.

14. Don’t rely on your partner for everything

The idea that our romantic partner should be our other half or our perfect match often encourages clinginess. We’re taught that our partner should ‘complete’ us, which encourages us to rely on them entirely.

But the truth is, our partner shouldn’t have to meet all our needs, and no one is ever going to be perfect in every way.

You might have certain interests in common, but you’ll probably have a lot of different ones too. And just because he or she doesn’t like going to art exhibitions and you do, doesn’t mean you have to stop going.

Maintain your network of family and friends to make sure you have different people to turn to for different reasons, and don’t expect your partner to be your everything.

15. Minimize phone time

The fact is, it’s far easier to be clingy these days. In the past, we couldn’t physically be in constant contact with one another. We’d say goodbye in the morning and come back together at night, full of stories of the day to share.

Or, we’d have to rely on phone calls from a landline or even wait for a letter… so we just had to get on with life and not spend our time worrying.

The advent of text messages and Whatsapp with those traitorous blue ticks has, unfortunately, sent clinginess levels through the roof.

Just because we can be in contact all day every day, doesn’t mean we should be.

And we definitely shouldn’t be wasting our time worrying when we don’t receive a speedy reply, or the tone of the reply sounds wrong.

Set rules for yourself that help you keep the time you spend on your phone to a minimum, and your stress levels should decrease along with your screen time.

16. Nurture your self-confidence

Some people are clingy, emotionally and physically, because they don’t see their own self-worth. They suffer from relationship anxiety and are convinced that their partner could up and leave at any minute.

Do things to boost your self-confidence. Practice self-care, whether that’s beautifying yourself on the outside or improving your mind.

17. Make alone time something you look forward to

Alone time should be something you relish, and take full advantage of.

Eat the food your partner isn’t a fan of, turn up the music, have a bath, light a few candles… do whatever it is you can’t normally do when they’re around, and enjoy yourself!

18. Talk about it, and work on it together

If you’ve recognized that you’re too clingy, chances are your partner is well aware of it.

Pick a good time, when you’re both well fed and well rested, with clear minds, to discuss where you think your neediness comes from and how you’re planning to work on it and overcome it.

Still not sure what to do about your clingy behavior? Chat online to an experienced relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out before it eats away your partner’s love for you. Simply click here to chat.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Am I clingy?

There is a fine line between taking comfort in your partner’s company and being clingy. Whether you are clingy – or, more importantly, whether you partner thinks you are clingy – depends on yours and their feelings.

It can be confusing because different people have different tolerances and preferences in a relationship. Some people enjoy being part of a couple so much that it becomes the focal point of their life. That’s not a bad thing if it reflects positively in your mental health. But it is possible for both partners to be clingy in the negative sense.

Some of the behaviors that are often associated with being clingy include:

  • Relentless messaging and instant replies that always have to end with a “love you” or “miss you” and a million kisses or emojis.
  • Irrational jealousy that’s triggered by any interaction your partner might have with a member of their preferred sex.
  • Neglecting your friends, family, and hobbies to spend time with your partner.
  • The need for your partner to constantly reassure you of their love for you.
  • Agreeing with your partner on everything and letting them dictate plans (even if they don’t always want to).
  • Monitoring your partner’s social media for any signs that they are being unfaithful.

The thing is, some of these behaviors are normal, especially during the early stages of a relationship. It’s common to message a lot at the beginning, it’s okay to feel a little jealous of other people your partner knows or speaks to, it’s normal to dive into a new relationship and spend less time with other people, and it’s not always a bad thing to agree with your partner.

Where does it cross into being clingy?

Firstly, it depends on how you feel. If you always feel anxious in a relationship and worry that your partner might reject you at any minute, your behaviors are more likely to be clingy.

Secondly, if your partner feels suffocated by your behaviors and has even mentioned them to you, they probably feel that you are being too needy.

If in doubt, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have a hard time being alone?
  • Do you feel emotionally unbalanced when away from your partner?
  • Do your thoughts dwell entirely on your partner when you are apart?
  • Are you worried that they are having a good time without you?

If you answer yes to any of these, it’s more likely that you are being clingy. 

Why am I so clingy?

Clinginess can be caused by one thing or a multitude of things that stack up on top of each other.

A childhood loss of someone you loved deeply can make you forever fearful of losing another person you love. This could be a parent, parent-figure, sibling, or best friend. You had someone torn away from you (during a period when your brain was still developing fast) and this makes you hold on tight so as not to lose someone again.

This loss doesn’t only have to mean a death. If one of your parents left you when you were very young, you may have developed abandonment issues that now cause you to display needy behaviors.

Abuse of any kind and at any time of your life can affect your mental health and the way you perceive relationships with others. Clinginess may be the result as you long for stability in a world that can feel chaotic and unjust.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, your experiences in past relationships can affect how you act in your current one. Separation after a long-term relationship can be difficult to take, especially if it involved infidelity on the part of you ex. The death of a partner whilst you are still relatively young can also lead to clinginess in the same ways that a death during your childhood might.

You might simply have never felt loved in any of your previous relationships. Maybe you were always taken for granted or used by your partner rather than properly cared for by them.

Related to some of these reasons is a profound lack of self-love and low self-esteem that makes you rely on external sources of love and validation. If you do not love yourself, you might behave in ways that try to seek confirmation of your partner’s love for you – and these behaviors are often those discussed above.

Is being clingy bad?

There is nothing inherently bad about being clingy. Clinginess is just a part of a spectrum that ranges from emotionally distant and cold at one end, through healthy levels of attachment, to codependency at the other.

Therefore the use of the word ‘clingy’ denotes a variety of levels of the behaviors already discussed. A little bit of clinginess from time to time is fairly natural as relationships go through periods of closeness and periods where couples might be more distant.

Clinginess can become a problem when its related behaviors tend toward more extreme examples. If you are snooping on your partner’s phone without them knowing or contacting other people in their life to tell them to “back off” because you feel jealous of the relationship your partner has with them, you definitely need to get help.

What does being clingy mean for my relationship?

If you allow your clingy and needy behavior to get out of hand, you are likely to push your partner away. It can become a game of cat and mouse where you try harder to feel close to them and they keep seeking to put some distance between you.

The long term impact of your clinginess depends on your partner. If they are naturally independent and want a balanced relationship that involves spending time with their friends or on their hobbies and career, your behavior can spell real trouble. They will likely reach breaking point where they feel smothered and want to escape, probably by ending the relationship.

Some of the relationship challenges that come about because of one partner being clingy include:

  • Less open and honest communication – your partner may find it difficult to express their need for space or lie about how they are feeling for fear of upsetting you.
  • Resentment – your partner may feel like they have lost their independence because you always try to tag along or make your presence known electronically. They may resent you for this.
  • Doubt about your true intentions – your partner may have doubts about how much you actually love them. They may wonder whether it’s the relationship itself that you love and that they could be anyone for all you care.
  • Irritability – if your partner needs their alone time and you are standing in the way of that, you can expect them to be irritable with you. Some people need to be alone in order to reset and recharge before they socialize again – even with a romantic partner such as you.
  • Regular conflict – if your partner doesn’t give you the time and attention you need, you accuse them of not caring about you and this leads to arguments on a regular basis.
  • Psychological displacement – people need an outlet for their life stresses and this can come in the form of hobbies or time with friends or time alone. If you are always around and get in the way of those outlets, your partner may take their stress out on you instead.

On the other hand, if your partner also likes to make the relationship a priority and will happily spend every spare minute they have with you, there’s nothing to say that things can’t work in the long run. It won’t be 100% healthy or free from challenges (no relationship is), but it can be maintained indefinitely.

It’s a matter of compatibility. Two people who are naturally a little clingy or enjoy the togetherness of being a couple are far more likely to make it work than if only one of you is that way and the other is fairly independent.

How can I express my needs without being needy?

If you believe you are needy – or have been told as such – you may now feel like it is wrong to express your needs. It isn’t. Every healthy relationship will involve some level of expressing your needs and hearing the needs of your partner.

But there are better ways of expressing yourself that can result in you getting those needs met.

But before you even express a need, it’s worth asking yourself whether it’s a need or a want. A need is something that is important to you. A want is something you’d like from your partner.

Consider communicating when you are apart – it is quite reasonable to say that you need your partner to spare at least some time each day to speak on the phone. It is unreasonable to demand that they respond to your messages within five minutes of receiving them – even if you may want them to.

Similarly, it is okay to say that you need to feel involved in other areas of your partner’s life and would like to meet their friends. It is not okay to demand that you are always present for every social event they may go to – again, even if that’s what you want.

Next, the language you use to express your needs can either make your partner raise their defenses or de-arm them.

A terrible way of phrasing a need would be to say: “If you really care about me, you’ll ___.”

A slightly better but still not great way to phrase it would be: “Why can’t you just ___? You know that would make me happy.”

The standard phrase which lots of people use because of its simplicity is: “I really need you to ___.” Whilst the first two are clearly manipulative, even this one has an hint of manipulation because of the use of the word ‘really’ and the fact that it doesn’t give your partner much choice.

Here are two better ways to express your needs that leave enough room for your partner to say no if they want (which they are entitled to do from time to time) whilst still making it clear that this is something you’d like them to do:

“It would mean a lot to me if you could ___.”

“Would it be okay if you/I ___ because I’m feeling a little ___ right now?”

For example:

“I know you’re away with your friends this weekend, but it would mean a lot to me if you could spare fifteen minutes to chat on the phone each day you’re gone.”

“Would it be okay if I stayed at yours tonight because my boss was horrible to me and I’m feeling a bit upset about it?”

Your partner will see these for what they are – requests. You are not demanding their time or attention or trying to guilt trip them into doing what you want. You are expressing your feelings clearly but with the understanding that your partner is an independent person who can make up their own mind.

It’s easy to see when you consider the opposite approach:

“You need to phone me every day whilst you’re away.”

“I need to stay at your place tonight because my boss was horrible…”

Neither of these leave your partner with any wiggle room to say no. At least, not without causing an argument. 

Would you like to talk to someone about your clinginess? Chat online to an expert from Relationship Hero who can help you minimize the negative impact it might have whilst helping you to overcome it. Simply click here to chat.

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About Author

Katie is a writer and translator with a focus on travel, self-care and sustainability. She's based between a cave house in Granada, Spain, and the coast of beautiful Cornwall, England. She spends her free time hiking, exploring, eating vegan tapas and volunteering for a local dog shelter.